The last week has been very scary for residents of Yellowknife and Kelowna in Canada. People watched with trepidation as massive wildfires encroached on each city, with the bulk of the blaze getting to within 15 kilometres of the Northwest Territories’ capital city and even closer to the nearby communities of Hay River and Fort Smith. Yellowknife’s entire population of 20,000 was ordered to evacuate on Aug. 17, which just so happened to be the day before another wildfire took hold west of Kelowna in B.C. By Sunday, Aug. 19, around 30,000 residents of Kelowna also found themselves under evacuation order.
In West Kelowna, close to 60 buildings have been destroyed as of Aug. 22, with damage yet to be fully assessed. Another 35,000 residents remain on evacuation alert. In order to free up emergency personnel and keep roadways open and unobstructed, authorities are asking tourists and non-essential travellers to stay away from the Okanagan area for the foreseeable future.
Locations of evacuation centres and how to help
Information on where reception centres and supports can be found for those arriving to Alberta from the N.W.T. and B.C. has been provided by the Government of Alberta. For assistance and to access supports call 310-4455 in Alberta (from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily). Residents of the N.W.T. should register with their government online before arriving, if possible. Information on the current wildfire situation in B.C., plus recommended actions and instructions, are available at EmergencyInfoBC.
In Calgary, evacuees are being received at the Westin Calgary Airport. In Edmonton, evacuees are being welcomed at the Edmonton EXPO Centre. Additional evacuation centres can be found in Lac La Biche, Fox Creek, Red Deer, Valleyview, and Whitecourt.
Organizations in Calgary have stepped up to provide some respite for evacuees to hopefully decompress slightly while they are here in the city. Heritage Park is offering free admission to all those who have been displaced in the hopes of creating positive memories during a very stressful time, and all Calgary YMCA locations are allowing evacuees to use their facilities for free.
If you would like to donate to help recovery efforts, the United Way British Columbia has set up a dedicated wildfire relief fund, and the first $20,000 donated will be matched by Interior Savings and Gulf & Fraser.
Insurance concerns for those who have experienced property damage
Rob de Pruis, national director of consumer and industry relations for the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), said in a recent Canadian Press article that Canadians with home insurance coverage should rest assured. “All standard homeowner and tenant insurance policies cover damage caused by fires, and also provide coverage to help with the cost of mass evacuations,” de Pruis said.
In addition to providing for repairs and replacements to your property because of a wildfire, home insurance coverage will also provide funds to help take care of expenses related to emergency relocation. Be sure to check the limits of these provisions. If you have been evacuated because of the Yellowknife or Kelowna wildfires, make sure to keep close track of all expenses associated with leaving your home. We recommend starting your claim as soon as possible so that you may access your assistance before the bills start piling up.
Many homeowners feel they must know the full extent of their damage or losses before they can file a claim. In fact, you are able to keep your claim open (usually from three months to a year) while you assess. It’s also easier to start slow with your list … trying to include everything all at once can be overwhelming and will more than likely result in a mistake or omission. As usual, the more details you can give your insurance provider, the better.
Don’t forget to include the contents of your fridge (or maybe even the fridge itself), depending on how long you have had to be away, how much food had to be replaced, and how much damage was inflicted on your refrigerator in the meantime. And even if there is no visible evidence, it’s important to carefully check for signs of smoke damage in your home. You may be able to smell smoke, see black soot and ash everywhere, and note black streaks or yellowing on paint or wallpaper. Getting rid of smoke damage often requires special cleaning by experts and is something you may consider filing an insurance claim for.
Once you have contacted your company and it is safe to do so, an adjuster will come and visit you to further assess your damage and losses.
Although home insurance is well-equipped to take care of the fallout from a wildfire, unfortunately not all car insurance policies will cover for fire or smoke damage. If you purchased an optional comprehensive policy, you are more than likely covered. Not so if you purchased simple collision coverage.
Lane’s Insurance covers Alberta
Insurance brokers such as us at Lane’s work for you, not the insurance companies, which is why we are so good at our jobs. We have access to a number of different policies from Canada’s best insurance providers, which we can compare to find you excellent coverage at great rates. We know the right questions to ask to help you determine the right amount of coverage for your property and your belongings and can ensure your policy provides for living expenses while necessary repairs are being carried out to your home after a disaster. Our experienced account managers are here to provide the personalized support you need. You can rely on your broker for the professional service necessary to help you make a smart, educated decision about your home insurance. Contact us at our Calgary, Edmonton, Banff and Alberta offices.